Our Grandparents Home review:  Rising above the bitter past to pave way for a brighter future

Cinestaan Rating

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Mayur Lookhar

Filmmaker Supriyo Sen’s documentary film delves on the ills of partition.

Each nation has its stories of bloodshed, tormentation and displaced families. Immigrants have many fond memories of their native lands for their descendants. They grow up listening to these stories, but would the prospect of visiting a grandparents’ home excite?

Documentary maker Supriyo Sen taps into the ills of partition between India and East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). He goes searching for souls who survived the 1946 Calcutta (now Kolkata) riots, but more pertinently he brings a handful of young blood to Dhaka to meet their Bangladeshi counterparts and also figure whether their grandparents at home still exist.

The Indian students visit Dhaka, capital of Bangladesh. Our Grandparents Home is an initiative taken by Goethe-Institut - Max Mueller Bhavan, Kolkata with the aim of engaging youth from both the countries. A few of the Indian students are initially apprehensive but once in Dhaka, they feel at home.

Sen and his team manage to track an old Bangladeshi woman, Begum Ahmedi, who endured personal loss during the Calcutta riots, but stayed back in Kolkata. Ahmedi was just six years old then, but she recalls the horror of walking among dead bodies. She gets emotional while talking about her late father, who was sheltered by a Hindu family. The old woman’s joy knows no bounds when she travels to the place that was once her home. She remembers her home, which is now replaced with another. Her parents are long gone, but Ahmedi and her memories are home.

In contrast to Ahmedi, a Bengali girl visits the Jessore district in Bangladesh. The young Indian student is out to see if her grandparents’ home still stands. Sadly, what was once the home is now a mushy swamp. However, is not turned completely dejected. She meets an old gentleman who knew her grandparents well. The greying man too remembers his friends and can’t control his emotions while talking about them.

Apart from Ahmedi, the documentary has no Bangladeshi in search for the long lost home. Perhaps, Sen couldn't find more Ahmedis. The filmmaker could have easily fitted in more tales. The hurrying subtitles make it difficult to remain on the same page as the film. If you’re not too attentive you’re likely to miss few names.

The dark days of 1946 are history, but West Bengal still witnesses communal clashes. Bangladesh, too, courted news for the fatal attacks on bloggers, writers, and there’s always fear of communal violence.

Even though the two countries signed a historic land agreement in 2015, the long drawn animosity of over five decades is hard to forget. The past can’t be undone, but the future is in our hands. 

While political and trade relations have been given a boost, it’s the communication between people that needs to rise. The youth in Sen’s film send a strong message to the communal, divisive minds — 'your hatred pales in front of our love. You may have burnt our grandparents’ home, but from here we’re building pillars of peace and friendship.'